Flu protection powered by llamas

Flu season is upon us, have you gotten your shot yet? You may be apprehensive because it doesn’t always work—for instance, last year’s flu vaccine was only 40 percent effective. If flu strains weren’t so diverse it wouldn’t be such an issue, which is why “mega-antibody” vaccines capable of protecting against multiple strains would be cool. Last week, researchers published a study detailing the process they used to develop one of these vaccines, which combined the fun-sized antibodies that llamas produce to make a vaccine capable of protecting mice against 59 of 60 flu strains they tested against. However, human antibodies are bigger, so they might not fit together nicely like llamas’ do. But even a vaccine that could protect against just a few strains could drastically affect infection rates. Here’s a likely delivery mechanism.

It’s snot great

Americans are experiencing the full wrath of the flu this year, with the CDC reporting that all ten of their administrative regions are experiencing elevated levels of influenza like illness. There’s a few reasons for that. The big one is that this year’s strain is one of the particularly nasty ones; it gets more people sick and makes those people sicker. Plus, this year we got unlucky with the vaccine: it’s only proven to be about 30% effective this year. But hey, at least we’re doing better this flu season than Australia did. Their vaccine only managed to protect 10% of users. Don’t let those rates worry you though, officials are still encouraging getting vaccinated. What else are you gonna do, wrap dirty socks around your neck?

Get your flu shot… even with new safety concerns

Sometimes you conduct a study, and the results suck, but you still have to report them. That’s what the authors of an influenza safety study found last week, when they discovered an association between miscarriage and flu vaccination. It’s bad enough that this gives more ammo to antivaxxers, but it also sucks because flu vaccines are particularly important for expecting mothers. Flu symptoms can be more severe for this population, and can lead to pre-term births and miscarriages all on their own. Plus, the vaccine is the only way for developing babies to receive long-term flu protection since infants younger than six months can’t receive it. So please, protect yourself, your kids, and the rest of us too.

Who would’ve thought?

Earth-shattering news has been released from the US Center for Disease Control, declaring that unvaccinated children account for most pediatric flu deaths. Wuuuuut? Yeah, we never would have believed it either, but it’s true. According to a recent CDC study that looked at flu related deaths of nearly 300 children, only 26% ended up being vaccinated with a flu shot. In the same group of children, about half had an underlying high-risk medical condition, yet even among those only 31% were vaccinated. The study’s author concluded that the flu vaccine is linked to a reduced risk of flu-related deaths among children. Good thing we finally know why we have been getting shots for all those years.